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8 Steps to Set up a Network Disaster Recovery Plan

How to Set up a Network Disaster Recovery Plan

Surely, your business has IT resources. Whether you run everything internally, hire external firms to manage IT for you, or use some combination of the two, you have access to IT experts when you need them.

That’s good because you do in fact need them.

Many businesses overlook network disaster recovery planning to their own detriment. Network downtime can be devastatingly expensive to any business. When you have a recovery plan, you can minimize that downtime and any associated fallout.

Building a recovery plan for your business will take careful planning and effort, but it’s more approachable than you might think. You can distill the entire process down to just eight essential steps.

1. Take Stock

What is tied to your network? What work cannot be done if the network is down? What do you lose when your network is down?

The first step in building your disaster recovery plan is answering these questions. The goal is to build an exhaustive list of what is at stake in terms of your business network. Once you have that list, you need to prioritize the items. When you do, you will have the formation of a roadmap that you can use to build your disaster recovery plan.

2. Audit

This step is where you get your IT experts to go through your network and systems to see how they’re running. They will also search for existing threats and try to analyze the current risk state of your overall business network.

A few positive things come from this step. First, you can often find easy-to-fix problems that reduce the risk of a disaster down the road. Second, you can get a clear idea of what kinds of investments will be necessary for your disaster recovery plan.

This portion of the process is where you can start to get into cost analysis. You can consider the financial risk assessed by the audits, and you can compare that to the cost analysis in order to draft your disaster recovery budget.

3. List Resources

At this point, you have done a lot of preparation for your disaster recovery plan. This is the first step in building the actual plan.

You want a complete list of all of the hardware, software, personnel, and third-party resources that are needed to fix the various aspects of your network.

Basically, this is a master list of anything and everyone that you might need to recover from a network disaster. It’s a big list, and that's ok. The idea here is to organize this information. This information will inform your draft of recovery procedures. Essentially, the nature of the problem will direct your recovery team to the correct resources to resolve any given situation.

4. Map the Procedures

Finally, we have made it to the nuts and bolts of crafting your disaster recovery plan. Since this article is generalized, it can’t get into specific recommendations for your business. You’ll want to work with your IT experts for that.

The general idea is to conceptualize what can go wrong with your network: ISP failure, server failure, natural disasters that render an entire office location inaccessible, and everything else that comes to mind. There are a lot of possibilities.

You might not be able to think of everything, but any specific source of failure that you can anticipate is one that you can overcome much more readily with your informed disaster plan.

The point of this phase is to consider why your network might face disaster, and then draft a set of procedures to overcome each scenario. Ultimately, you’ll want to organize all of this into a master playbook.

5. Plan for Data

This is all about network disaster recovery, but you cannot decouple network disasters from data. Half of the reason you have a network is to manage data. So, you need a data backup and recovery plan that goes hand-in-hand with your network recovery plan.

The good news is that data plans are usually simpler. You want data redundancy and procedures to recover data when there is a problem. To do this, you don’t have to anticipate natural disasters or seasonal power brownouts. Instead, you need local and non-local backups, a way to retrieve them, and a regular backup schedule.

As long as you meet those criteria, you should have reliable, retrievable data backups whenever you need them.

6. Build Your Policy

This portion of your disaster recovery plan has absolutely nothing to do with IT responses or fixing network problems.

Instead, this is where you map out a list of liabilities. When a network fails, people lose money. Who is responsible for what kinds of compensation? How do you take care of your business, personnel, customers, and clients? These are policy decisions, but they should be clearly outlined as part of the total disaster recovery plan.

7. Test and Practice

At this point, you have a disaster recovery plan. You’re off to a good start, but some of the most important work comes now.

You need to make sure everyone knows their roles, and you need to make sure that your procedures actually work. That means testing your procedures with drills and practice scenarios.

You will have to fit all of this into the overall budget, so plan accordingly. That said, test procedures are worth more than you might imagine. There will always be gaps in your recovery plans, and tests can find most of those gaps.

8. Update

After you have shored up your recovery plan against problems found in testing, you’re pretty much set. From there, it’s just a matter of updating the recovery plan as needed. Any time you make significant investments into IT and/or networking, you need to review the disaster recovery plan to ensure that it covers the new stuff.

Even when you aren’t making major IT investments, an annual disaster recovery review will ensure that you aren't overlooking anything important. Your plan will be able to keep up with changes to the business, and it will remain ready for anything.

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